The Volokh Conspiracy

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The Sun Also Sets, on Section 702

Episode 437 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


The Cyberlaw Podcast kicks off 2023 by staring directly into the sun(set) of Section 702 authorization. The entire panel, including guest host Brian Fleming (Stewart having been "upgraded" to an undisclosed location) and guests Michael Ellis  and David Kris, debates where things could be headed this year as the clock is officially ticking on FISA Section 702 reauthorization. Although there is agreement that a straight reauthorization is unlikely in today's political environment, the ultimate landing spot for Section 702 is very much in doubt, and a game of chicken will likely precede any potential deal. (Baker and Ellis have contributed to the debate, arguing that renewal should be the occasion for legislating against the partisan misuse of intelligence authorities.) That, and everything else, seems to be in play, as this reauthorization battle could result in meaningful reform or a complete car crash come this time next year.

Sticking with Congress, Michael also reacts to President Biden's recent bipartisan call to action regarding "Big Tech" and ponders where Republicans and Democrats could potentially find agreement on an issue everyone seems to agree on (for very different reasons). The panel also discusses the timing of the call and debates whether it is intended to incentivize the Republican-controlled House to act rather than simply increase oversight on the tech industry.

David then introduces a fascinating story about the bold recent action by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) to bring suit against Covington & Burling LLP to enforce an administrative subpoena seeking disclosure of the firm's clients implicated in a 2020 cyberattack by Chinese state-sponsored group, Hafnium. David posits that the SEC knows exactly what it is doing by taking such aggressive action in the face of strong resistance, and the panel discusses whether the SEC may have already won by this bold use of its authority in the U.S. cybersecurity enforcement landscape.

Brian then turns to the crypto regulatory and enforcement space to discuss Coinbase's recent settlement with New York's Department of Financial Services. Rather than signal another crack in the foundation of the once high-flying crypto industry, Brian offers that this may just be routine growing pains for a maturing industry that is more like the traditional banking sector, from a regulatory and compliance standpoint, than it may have wanted to believe.

Then, in the China portion of the episode, Michael discusses the latest news on the establishment of "reverse" Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)  review. He thinks it may still be some time before this tool gets finalized (even as the substantive scope appears to be shrinking). Next, Brian discusses a recent D.C. Circuit decision which upheld the Federal Communication Commission's decision to rescind the license of China Telecom at the recommendation of the executive branch agencies known as Team Telecom (Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security). This important, first-of-its-kind decision reinforces the role of Team Telecom as an important national security gatekeeper for U.S. telecommunications infrastructure.

Finally, David highlights an interesting recent story about an FBI search of an apparent Chinese police outpost in New York and ponders what it would mean to negotiate with and be educated by undeclared Chinese law enforcement agents in a foreign country.

In a few updates and quick hits:

  • Brian updates listeners on the U.S. government's continuing efforts to win multilateral support from key allies for tough new semiconductor export controls targeting China.
  • Michael picks up the thread on the Twitter Files release and offers his quick take on what it says about ReleaseTheMemo.
  • And, last but not least, Brian discusses the unsurprising (according the Stewart) decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to allow WhatsApp's spyware suit against NSO Group to continue.

Download 437th Episode (mp3)

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